St. Clair County officials on Thursday approved an expansion worth $3.5 million to a refrigerated warehouse at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport to meet the growing demands of North Bay Produce.
The county's Public Building Commission, which oversees the airport, authorized the 18,000-square-foot expansion during a special meeting. The building houses North Bay's processing line where employees prep fruit for delivery by truck to Midwest grocery stores.
North Bay representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.
The commission approved construction plans, but did not address who would pay for the project.
County Administrator Dan Maher said a financing agreement would likely be similar to the previous deal with the company. The county invested $2.15 million in North Bay's current $5.7 million warehouse in return for taking ownership of the warehouse in 2027.
Growing demand and new customers have the Michigan-based produce company hoping to complete the expansion as soon as possible, according to St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern. The construction deadline approved by the commission is Aug. 13.
"North Bay is using the fullest extent of the building and needs the expansion much, much sooner than anticipated," Kern said.
North Bay began operations at MidAmerica in June and has 30 employees processing fruit flown into the airport from outside the country. The expansion is expected bump the number of employees to 80 people, Kern said.
The expansion would be built unto the current 36,000-square-foot warehouse and include a storage area available to other companies, according to MidAmerica Planning Director Tom Goode. The refrigerated storage is necessary for the county's long-term plans to become a trade hub for perishable goods with China.
MidAmerica has partnered with Ningbo Lishe International Airport in China in the hopes of bringing products from South America and the Midwest to more than 250 million Chinese customers.
Goode said North Bay ships up to eight trucks of produce to stores each day from the Mascoutah site. By processing the fruit at MidAmerica, the company can deliver fruit much faster than from its plant in Miami, Fla., allowing it reach more customers, Goode said.
Commissioner James Nations Sr. said the company is also "aggressively exploring bringing aircraft into MidAmerica."
North Bay has been meeting with owners of a 500-store food chain in China in the hopes of supplying the stores, Kern said.
"These kinds of connections are being explored and we are optimistic," Kern said.
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at email@example.com or 618-239-2501.